Protest at Belfast factory over ‘ludicrous nature of arms trade’ with Thales-built equipment aiding both Russia and Ukraine

A small group of activists has mounted a protest at Thales’ manufacturing facility in east Belfast, over what it called the “ludicrous nature of the arms trade”.

By Adam Kula
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 6:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2022, 6:22 pm
A protestor dressed as St Patrick at the Thales factory in Belfast
A protestor dressed as St Patrick at the Thales factory in Belfast

The demonstrators, a number of them in costumes, demanded that the international aerospace firm “transition to peaceful production which will benefit humanity” instead of building weapons systems.

Thales is a French firm whose air defence division is based in Belfast, having taken over Short’s Missile Systems.

Weapons like its NLAW anti-tank bazooka and Starstreak anti-aircraft missile are built in Belfast – and thousands of NLAWs have been sent to Ukrainian fighters by the UK government, which also plans to send Starstreak missiles too.

In a press release, the protestors said: “The ludicrous nature of the arms trade is demonstrated by the fact Thales is ‘fighting on both sides’ in the war on Ukraine.

“Anti-tank weapons from Thales are used by Ukraine while Russia has bomb targetting equipment from Thales in their war planes.”

This appears to be a reference to something called the Thales Damocles Targeting Pod, a laser-based aiming system for fighter jets.

At least three different aerospace-related websites say that Russia has used Damocles pods for its aircraft (Times Aerospace, Flight Global, and Air Recognition) – and Thales itself says the system is “currently in service” with the SU-30 jet, a Russian fighter plane.

Thales has also had civil aircraft dealings with Russia, providing electronics equipment for passenger jets.

The protest was organised by two groups – one called Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education, and another called Swords to Ploughshares.

Thales said: “[We have] always operated in strict compliance with French and international regulations, including the European sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014.”

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